Roger Launius’s talk on “Robots vs. Humans in Space” was truly thought provoking. The theme on humans and robots (or robotizing human beings) appears to be a re-curing theme, in this series of Human/Nature lectures, and perhaps specifically in this day and age. As he addressed at the start of his lecture, the image of robots doing most of the job in space is something that not many have in mind—this includes myself before the lecture. It was interesting to consider the many limitations that human beings have when considering sending them into space, especially when considering sending them for a long term (some examples were: radiation from the sun, lunar dust accumulation in the lungs, human physiology being unable to withstand the hypogravity). With this inevitable truth that the human body is not designed to survive in space, the solution is either to send robots, robotize humans. Roger Launius stated that the robotization of humans, is already happening to enhance human body functions; whether it be something as simple as a pair of glasses, a prosthetic leg, and hearing aids on the external, or something more internal like a pacemaker, insulin pumps, and artificial hearts.
As I was listening to the lecture, it was also interesting to notice that the humanization of robots (the opposite of robotizing humans) is also taking place. To carry out tasks that human beings want to carry out in space, robots need to be programmed to think like a human being; to press the buttons on the spacecraft like humans can, they need to move like a human being. Although the humanization of robots was not a topic that was raised in this lecture, it is perhaps another issue that will become increasingly important and relevant.